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Comparison and Contrast of Alvar Aalto and Le Corbusier



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    Comparison and Contrast of Alvar Aalto and Le Corbusier

                This research paper aims to present two known architects in the 20th century namely, Alvar Aalto and Le Corbusier. First, it will present the background of the two architects. Second, it will give information about their works; a masterpiece of each architect will be given emphasis. Lastly, it endeavors to compare and contrast the two architects.

    Alvar Aalto, whose real name is Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto, is a Finnish who has been well-known for redesigning and remodeling furniture and architectures of public edifices, with basic foundation to the relationship between man, nature and building. In Scandinavian countries, he is referred to as the “Father of Modernism” (“Biography for Alvar Aalto”). During the 20th century, he evolved as the most important architect and became the central figure in international modernism (“Alvar Aalto”).

                Born on February 3, 1898 at Kuortane, Finland, Alvar Aalto is the first child of Johan Henrik Aalto, a government surveyor and Selma Hackestedt, who died in 1903. On 1907, his father had remarried; the family then has moved to the central Finnish city of Jyvaskyla. Alvar has attended the Normal School and the Classical Lyceum (“Alvar Aalto: Architect Biography”) where he graduated in 1916. In the year 1916-1921, he studied at Helsinki University of Technology where he obtained his degree in Architecture. In one of his college years, he worked on the design of the Tivoli area with Carolus Lindberg for the 1920 National Fair. During that epoch, he became a protégé of Armas Lingren, during the formative period of Romanticism in Finnish National architecture (“Biography for Alvar Aalto”).

                Aalto reveals in his works a well-made and carefully crafted balance of intricate and complex forms, elements and spaces that unleash a traditionalism which is anchored in the cultural heritage and environment of Finland (“Alvar Aalto: Architect Biography”). His early works are mixed with neoclassical ideas and the International style. Afterward, Aalto’s constructions are then characterized by asymmetry, curved walls and multifaceted textures. Nevertheless, his passion for painting led to the progression of his unique architectural style wherein cubism and collage have been the essential elements in his works.

           Some of his significant buildings are the

    White Guards Headquarters (1920), Paimio

    Tuberculosis Sanatorium (1927-1935), Baker

    House (1946-1949), Institute of Technology

    (1949-1966), Lakeuden Risti Church

    (1957-1960), Enzo-Gutzeit Headquarters

    (1959-1962), Seinajoki Town Hall (1962-1965)

    Figure 2. Lakeuden Risti Church

    and Finlandia Hall (1967-75) (Craven).

    Aalto has rapidly proved himself as the master of International Style. In line with this, his Paimio Sanatorium has been acclaimed as an international major achievement (“Alvar Aalto: An Appreciation”).

    Paimio Sanatorium is the first building that designed by Aalto. It is entirely furnished with his own factory-made furniture. The spread of tuberculosis in Finland amidst the war became the reason for its construction. Paimio is the chosen location for the sanatorium. During those times, a competition is held for its design, which is resolved and completed at the end of January 1929. Aalto’s entry in the competition is a building that is grouped in a neo-classical manner. It possesses sun balconies which illustrate

    Figure 3. Paimio Sanatorium

    modern architectural approach (“Paimio Sanatorium”). Today, the edifice is already a part of the University of Turku Central Hospital. The emphasized concrete frame construction is fully revealed and exploited aesthetically. The furniture inside the building is designed by Aalto and his wife. One of the most notable furniture is the Paimio chair (“Paimio Sanatorium: Alvar Aalto”).

                 On the other hand, Le Corbusier is considered as the 20th century’s most influential, most admired and maligned architect. His writings and his constructions and buildings have been essential elements and players in the Modern history (“Le Corbusier”). He was born as Charles

    Edouard Jeanneret in LaChaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland on the 6th of October, 1887. He is the second child of

    Figure 4. Le Corbusier

    Edouard Jeanneret and Madame Jeannerct-Perret, a dial painter and a musician and piano teacher, respectively (“Le Corbusier: Architect Biography”). His education has been influenced by Charles l’Epplattenier, a teacher at the local art school whom Le Corbusier refers as “My Master.” L’Epplattenier involved his students in the watch manufacturing wherein the students were asked to search for a new kind of ornament expression of the Jura landscape (Gans, Corbusier, Plattus 29).

                When he was thirteen years old, Le Corbusier apprenticed as an engraver and later on, abandoned the watch making due to his weak and sensitive eyesight that still afflicted him during his adulthood (Gans, Corbusier, Plattus 29). However, he still continued his study of art and ornamentation and dreamt of becoming a painter. His Master, however, insisted for him to study architecture too and arranged his first commissions (“Le Corbusier: Architect Biography”). He was trained as an artist and had his extensive travel in Germany and the East. He studied in Paris under Auguste Peret, thus absorbing the artistic and cultural life of the city. It was in this era when he developed interest in the synthesis of different and various arts. In 1920, he adopted the name Le Cosbusier (Matthews).

                Le Corbusier’s early works is linked and related to nature, however his ideas are matured. He designed and developed Maison-Domino, an edifice for mass production with free-standing pillars and rigid floors. It is in 1917 when he settled in Paris and issued his first book Ver Une Architecture (Towards a New Architecture), which was anchored on his earlier articles in L’Esprit Nouveau (Matthews).

                Le Corbusier had a lot of works and designs. Among these is the Villa Savoye (1929-1930), Atelier Ozenfant (1922-1923), Carpenter Center for Visual Arts (1959-1962), Centre Le Figure 5. Notre dame du Haut Corbusier (1963-1967), Cite du Refuge (1929-1933), Notre Dame du Haut (1950-1954), and Pavillon du Bresil (1959). Figure 6. Villa Savoye

    Vill Savoye is the most well-known house in the realm of modern architecture. It is Le Corbusier’s masterpiece that reveals the architect’s purist design. It is the edifice that culminated in his many years of design and has been the foundation of his later architectures (Howe). This building is an early example that showcases the “International Style.” It floats and hovers above a plane of grasses on a thin concrete pilotti. It has strip windows, a flat roof with a deck area and some curvaceous walls (Matthews). The house is composed of two contrasting aspects. Its dominant element lies on the square, single-storied box, geometric envelope lifted above thin pilotis (Trachtenberg and Hyman 530).

                Le Corbusier’s style on the said construction revolts on creating a building as a block and decorating its external elements and closures with ornaments. The new movement has moved away from the ornamentation and has focused more on an exploration of three-dimensional volumetric intricacies inside an architectural space. The new style aims to represent the machine age (Chami).

                Alvar Aalto and Le Corbusier are two great masters in the realm of Architecture. Both of them are famous and renowned around the world because of their buildings and artistic creations.

                Aalto’s works, especially during his early years of development, is anchored on functionalism. However, the simple definition of the term ‘functionalism’ does not primarily reveal the depth of his artistic achievement. For his career, functionalism is expressed in the organic relationship between man, nature and building (Brady). His interest revolves around the placement of the organic links in relation to the world and to the people who will use them (“Alvar Aalto”). On the contrary, Le Corbusier’s earlier buildings, constructions and edifices showcase pure prism. Those constructions illustrate smooth, white concrete and glass structures that are hovered above the ground. During the late 1940s, he shifted his style into rough, heavy forms of stone, concrete, stucco and glass, known as New Brutalism (Craven).

                Aalto had designed many town houses, buildings and even furniture. Le Corbusier, on the other hand, had also designed buildings –most of them became famous – townhouses, centers and pavilions. The only difference is that Le Corbusier published three books namely, Vers une Architecture (1927), La Maison des homes (1942) and Quand les cathedrals etaient blanches (1947) and Aalto had done paintings and glass designs that are still renowned in the world.

    The well-known architects have designed and constructed their masterpieces in accordance to their philosophies. Aalto’s philosophy, which is summed up in 1950s, is stated as: “There are only two things in art — humanity or its lack. The mere form, some detail in itself, does not create humanity. We have today enough of superficial and rather bad architecture which is modern” (“Alvar Aalto”). Le Corbusier, in contrast, possesses five basic principles that guided him in his creations. It is written and stated in his Vers une architecture and is the embodiment of the Villa Savoye. The principles are: (1) free standing support pillars, (2) open floor plan independent from the supports, (3) vertical façade that is free from the supports, (4) long horizontal sliding windows and (5) roof gardens (Craven).

    The development of the artistic careers on the featured writers can be traced on the people that have influenced them. Edward Schure’s Les Grand Inities and Owen Jones’ Grammar of Ornament are the earlier masterpieces that influenced Le Corbusier. His exposure to Plato, Schure and Jones are the most influential on Corbusier’s worldview (Kennedy). On the other hand, Aalto has been influenced by his desire in painting. Thus the embodiments of his works divulge and expose his unique architectural style, revealing the cubism and collage artistic movement.

    If Le Corbusier is the Leader of International Style, Alvar Aalto is the Father of Modernism in Scandinavian countries. These two architects, Alvar Aalto and Le Corbusier, have contributed much in the field of architecture. Their buildings, edifices and artistic creations have already survived for decades, have influenced other architects, have revealed much and contributed much to the development and history of Modern Architecture.

    Works Cited

    “Alvar Aalto.” n.d. Art and Culture. 10 February 2009 <>.

    “Alvar Aalto.” n.d. Design Museum Collection. 10 February 2009 <>.

    “Alvar Aalto: An Appreciation.” 2009. Virtual Finland. 11 February 2009. <>.

    “Alvar Aalto: Architect Biography.” n.d. Famous Architects. 10 February 2009 <>.

    “Biography of Alvar Aalto.” 2009. The Internet Movie Database. 10 February 2009 <>.

    Brady, Joe. “Alvar Aalto.” 2008. Virtual Finland. 10 February 2009  <>.

    Chami, Camille. 2007. “Le Corbussier and Villa Savoye Remembered.” Archinnovations. 11 February 2009 <>.

    Craven, Jackie. 2009. “Alvar Aalto: Father of Modern Scandinavian Architecture.” Architecture. 10 February 2009 <>.

    Crave, Jackie. 2008. “Le Corbusier: Leader of International Style.” About.Com: Architecture. 11 February 2009 <>.

    Gans, Deborah, Le Corbusier and Alan Plattus. The Le Corbusier Guide. Location: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006. 3rd edition.

    Howe, Jeffrey. N.d “Le Corbusier: Villa Savoye.” Boston College. 11 February 2009 <>.

    Kennedy, Rachel. n.d. “LeCorbusier and the Radiant City Contra True Urbanity and the Earth.” 11 February 2009 <>.

    “Le Corbusier.” n.d. From Here to Modernity Architects. 10 February 2009 <>.

    “Le Corbusier: Architect Biography.” n.d. Famous Architects. 10 February 2009 <>.

    Matthews, Kevin. “Le Corbusier.” 2009. Architect: Great Buildings. 11 February 2009 <>.

    “Paimio Sanatorium.” 2008. Design Boom. 11 February 2009 <>.

    “Paimio Sanatorium: Alvar Aalto.” 2009. MIMOA in Modern Architecture. 11 February 2009 <>.

    Trachtenberg, Marvin and Isabelle Hyman. Architecture, from Prehistory to Post-Modernism. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1986.

    List of Figures

    “Alvar Aalto.” 2009. Virtual Finland. 11 February 2009 <>.

    “Lakeuden Risti Church.” 2009. About.Com: Architecture. 11 February 2009 <>.

    “Le Corbusier.” n.d. Le Corbusier: Architect Biography. 11 February 2009 <>.

    “Notre Dame du Haut.” 2005. IonArts. 11 February 2009 <>.

    “Paimio Sanatorium.” 2007. Insomniapocalypse. 11 February 2009 <>.

     “Villa Savoye.” N.d. Le Corbusier: Villa Savoye. 11 February 2009 <>.

    Comparison and Contrast of Alvar Aalto and Le Corbusier. (2016, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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